Johnny lived in an orphanage dormitory with nine other young boys. Times were hard, especially in the wintertime when any extra money went for coal to heat the old buildings. At Christmas, each boy received only one special gift--a sweet, juicy orange. It was the only time of the year such a rare treat was provided. How the boys looked forward to that orange; it seemed to them a gift of love that brightened their dreary world for one brief moment at least. It was coveted and treasured by each of the boys like nothing else in their spare existence, not only because it was delicious to savor and enjoy, but also because of what it represented to them--"someone does care for me just a little bit."
Each boy would save his orange for several days, admiring it's bright, warm color, holding it tenderly, sniffing it's delightful fresh perfume, loving the possession of it, and contemplating the wonderful, exhilerating moment when he would slowly peel it, carefully break apart the moist segments and eat each one with the greatest of pleasure and satisfaction. Some would even save it until New Year's Day, just to remind themselves of the great joy of Christmas past and the hope of a bright and happy New Year to come.
This particular Christmas Eve, Johnny had lost his temper and punched one of the other boys. As punishment for breaking one of the orphanage's strictist rules, the Headmistriss told Johnny he would not receive his orange this year. Johnny spent Christmas Day feeling more empty and alone than he had ever felt in his unhappy young life. No orange at all for him this year, like all the other boys would have for their very own! Night came and Johnny huddled in his bed, but he was too miserable to sleep. Silently and feeling cold and all alone inside, he sobbed helplessly into his pillow.
Johnny was startled when he felt a small, soft hand on his shoulder. Something was quickly shoved into his hand, and then the visitor disappeared into the darkness. Johnny looked down and could just make out an object wrapped in an old piece of cloth. As he unwrapped this odd gift, he was amazed to discover that he held a rather strange looking orange...an orange made from the combined segments of nine other oranges...nine other highly prized oranges that were not saved, admired and cherished for many days, but were eaten that night so that Johnny might have a happy and blessed Christmas, too, in the knowledge that he was not alone.
May Johnny's Christmas orange remind us of the message of unselfish love and caring for the needs of others which, when lived by each of us, makes our world a better place for all to live in.
(I received a shorter version of this story in a letter, and re-wrote and edited it for this post. I don't know where it originated.)